Clandestine Cell System - Non-traditional Models, Exemplified By Al-Qaeda - Infrastructure Cells

Infrastructure Cells

Any clandestine or covert service, especially a non-national one, needs a variety of technical and administrative functions. Some of these services include:

  1. Forged documents and counterfeit currency
  2. Apartments and hiding places
  3. Communication means
  4. Transportation means
  5. Information
  6. Arms and ammunition
  7. Transport

Other functions include psychological operations, training, and finance.

A national intelligence service has a support organization to deal with services such as finance, logistics, facilities (e.g., safehouses), information technology, communications, training, weapons and explosives, medical services, etc. Transportation alone is a huge function, including the need to buy tickets without drawing suspicion, and, where appropriate, using private vehicles. Finance includes the need to transfer money without coming under the suspicion of financial security organizations.

Some of these functions, such as finance, are far harder to operate in remote areas such as the FATA of Pakistan, than in cities with large numbers of official and unofficial financial institutions, and the communications to support them. If the financial office is distant from the remote headquarters, there is a need for couriers, who must be trusted to some extent, although they may not know the contents of their messages, or the actual identity of sender and/or receiver. The couriers, depending on the balance among type and size of message, security, and technology available, may memorize messages, carry audio or video recordings, or hand-carry computer media.

"These cells are socially embedded (less so than the core group, however), structurally embedded, functionally embedded (they are specialized into a domain), and knowledge base-specific (there does not seem to be a great deal of cross-training, or lateral mobility in the organization). Such cells are probably subjected to a mixture of positive and negative control ("do this, do these sorts of things, don’t do that")."

Core Structure of Non-National Group
Member Infrastructure commanded
Richard Finance
Anton Military training/operations 1
Hassan Military training/operations 2
David Transportation
Kim Communications and propaganda

The leaders of military cells are responsible for training them, and, when an operation is scheduled, selecting the operational commander, giving him the basic objective and arranging whatever support is needed, and then release him from tight control to execute the meeting. Depending on the specific case, the military leaders might have direct, possibly one-way, communications with their cells, or they might have to give Kim the messages to be transmitted, by means that Anton and Hassan have no need to know.

Note that Anton does not have a direct connection to Kim. Under normal circumstances, he sacrifices efficiency for security, by passing communications requests through Hassan. The security structure also means that Hassan does not know the members of Anton's cells, and Kim may only know ways to communicate with them, but not their identity.

Kim operates two systems of cells, one for secure communications and one for propaganda. To send out a propaganda message, Osama must pass it to Kim. If Kim were compromised, the core group might have significant problems with any sort of outside communications.

Terrorist networks do not match cleanly to other cell systems that regularly report to a headquarters. The apparent al-Qaeda methodology of letting operational cells decide on their final dates and means of attack exhibit an operational pattern, but not a periodicity that could easily be used for an indications checklist appropriate for a warning center. Such lists depend on seeing a local pattern to give a specific warning.

Note that Hassan has two subordinates that have not yet established operational cells. These subordinates can be considered sleepers, but not necessarily with a sleeper cell.

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Clandestine Cell System - Non-traditional Models, Exemplified By Al-Qaeda
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